JERUSALEM is Britain’s smallest cemetery in north-west France. It has only 47 graves, 23 of which belong to members of the Durham Light Infantry who were killed in the days following D-Day as they pushed inland.

It is beside the D6, a country road that leads to Bayeux, home of the famous tapestry. In fact, it was started on June 10, 1944, when the Germans launched a bid to retake Bayeux which had fallen to the British.

These fields and hamlets were hotly fought over – Jerusalem lies midway on the D6 between Bayeux and Tilly-sur-Seulles, a village that was captured 23 times by the British between June 19 and 26 with the loss of 986 British lives.

Today, inquisitive cows mooch amiably across their field to inspect any visitors who stop beside the D6 to inspect the headstones.

All life and death is represented in the three pale, arching rows.

By these latter stages of the war, the DLI no longer recruited exclusively from the North-East, so there is a scattering of men from across the country, but the region is still disproportionately represented: there's Pte John Cook, 25, from Trimdon; Sgt Charles Macklam, 38, from Hartlepool, and Lance Sgt William Williams, 26, of Spennymoor.

By coincidence, lying alongside these Durhams is 23-year-old Cpl Stanley Richard Wood, a member of the Royal Corps of Signals who was the son of Bertram and Frances Wood of Darlington.

There are three of the DLI’s chaplains buried in Jerusalem, and the last person laid to rest there was Svobodnik Otto Auffarber of the Czechoslovakian army.

Czechoslovakian airmen were involved on D-Day itself, giving the Allies valuable air cover, but it wasn’t until several weeks afterwards that Czechoslovakian troops landed on the beaches with instructions to capture Dunkirk. This 24-year-old svobodnik, or lance corporal, was killed on October 4, 1944, so perhaps in an accident on his way to Dunkirk.

He lies in grave A6, just down from Major Sir Robert Dalrymple Arbuthnot in A16, a sixth baronet who was killed leading the Queen’s Royal Lancers.

Sir Robert is just in front of Major Ian English’s batman, Pte Kenneth Stanger, in B14, and next to him in B15 is another Durham, Pte Jack Banks who, at 16, is believed to have been the youngest British soldier to be killed in the Second World War.

Jack had left school in his native Darwen in Lancashire aged 14, worked at a glazed brickworks and excelled in the Home Guard. At 5ft 9ins tall aged 15, he was able to convince the military authorities that he was 18 and joined up.

His mother, Fanny, was not best pleased, and when she learned he was being posted overseas, she revealed his true age to the authorities.

However, because of the secrecy surrounding the D-Day landings, the authorities were not able to locate Jack so he landed with the Durhams on Gold beach.

On July 21 the Durhams were still stuck in the countryside around Tilly-sur-Seulles and Jack’s battalion commander asked for three volunteers to take out an enemy machine gun position. As Jack and two comrades were preparing themselves for their attack, they were struck by mortar fire. The other two were killed outright but Jack, wounded in his thigh, was taken by a field ambulance to a makeshift dressing station in the farm which now overlooks Jerusalem cemetery. There, a few hours later, he died.

Fanny never claimed his war medals. She always said she wanted him back instead.

Today the youngest soldier lies in the smallest cemetery beside the D6, watched over by the cows.